Is anyone else exhausted after the rush of the holiday season? I feel as drained as my parents’ stock of batteries was when I was given a Sega Game Gear one year for Christmas. How on earth am I supposed to “play” the new year better like this?
This week’s column is adapted from Tim’s Twelve Days of Christmas booklet for 2023-2024, The Fruit of Christmas. You can download the full booklet for free or purchase it for a low cost in Kindle format or Paperback from Amazon.
I remember as a kid getting various toys and games that required batteries that were quite “hungry.” The Game Gear comes to mind because it would consume 6 AA batteries at a time in just a few hours of play.
These days, there are more electronics about than ever before, but they’re rechargeable. At least that doesn’t cost the kind of money all those AAs did, but it does cost time as we wait for agonizingly slow chargers.
Over the Twelve Days of Christmas — which is ongoing through this weekend — my church and various friends on the Internet have been exploring what Scripture calls the Fruit of the Spirit. As random as it may seem, thinking of that is what led me to think of batteries.
The Apostle Paul lists out the fruit as encompassing the combination of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As he writes in Galations 5:22-23, there’s “against such things there is no law,” but a lot of times there is a lack of energy against “such things.”
I’m tired. Everyone I talk to is tired. I don’t feel gentle or patient or any of the others when my battery is drained. The steps to being reenergized are even more inconvenient than dealing with dead batteries and yet we arrive in a new year and want to be “better” people.
We try for a bit, exhausted as we may be in early January, but then fizzle out like batteries removed from the charger too soon.
Paul is not oblivious to our struggles; he suggests a different approach. In Galatians 5:16, he says we should “walk by the Spirit” to avoid falling into the sinful opposites of the fruit he later outlines. Then, as we reach the end of the list, the apostle returns to the point, calling us as those “led by the Spirit” to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25).
That’s great, Paul, but I’m exhausted. My batteries are dead and the charger doesn’t work. Do you realize how hard it is to keep doing the sort of good God wants me to do? Keeping the dust off the gym membership starts sounding easy by comparison.
Paul’s list, though, isn’t the typical New Year’s list of things we’re going to use our nonexistent energy to will into existence. He starts and ends with a warehouse club delivery of the batteries necessary to give the gifts that are listed to those around us.
In my doubts about my abilities, I can arrive at the temptation to put off showing virtues such as kindness and patience to people around me. As we think about the places we feel ready to serve this year and also the places we feel woefully ill-equipped, Paul’s point is to say, “Ask God for help.”
He doesn’t always enable us to do everything right away. That’s not Paul’s assertion. At times, we need more preparation before we can do everything God has placed on our hearts to do and be. But, even in the preparations, this list of virtues we know as Fruit of the Spirit is in season and ripe for serving.
How can that be? Because God is the one who enables us to show love, joy, peace, patience and all the other examples of spiritual fruit every single day of our lives. We do not need preparation before we show kindness. We do not need experience before the Spirit gives us a gentle response instead of a harsh retort.
What we need is God.
He’s the difference between being too low on battery and a meaningful improvement this year. He is the one bringing good things out in us. We get the joy of “re-gifting,” harvesting the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and serving others with it.
What “weird trick” do we need to replace those depleted batteries in our lives? As long as I keep the focus on myself, I’ll run out of energy faster than my old Game Gear. The solution isn’t anything weird at all: reading a bit of the Bible each day this year and spending some time in prayer rather than doomscrolling so I see God as the one enabling me to do things rather than myself.
The Fruit is in season. Let’s make it a year of serving goodness and kindness to those around us.